Drupal 6 Reaches End of Life: How Soon Should You Move

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In a previous article, we discussed potential threats to Drupal 6 websites after the platform reaches end of life on February 24, 2016. In this article, we discuss how to decide when to move off Drupal 6.

As a Drupal 6 website owner, you might be asking yourself, do I need to move to a new platform? Yes, you do. But when is another matter. Technically, a Drupal 6 website could keep working just fine for years. But working “just fine” is not the same thing as a website working well for you. At some point, you’ll want to move on to a more recent Drupal release or another CMS entirely.

Below are three factors to consider in determining when to move off Drupal 6.

  • Whether or not your website is actively being developed

  • Your aversion to security threats

  • The relationship between your business and your website

Of course, you also have to consider factors such as cost and timing. We will try to touch on other factors as they relate to the three factors above.

A website under active development

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Whether a website is under active development should be one of the prime factors in deciding when to move off of Drupal 6. A stable Drupal 6 website could keep chugging along for years. On the other hand, while a Drupal 6 website under development will also keep working fairly well in the short term, over time the development process will become more difficult and could eventually come to a halt - and sooner than you might think.

There are a number of reasons for this, only one of them being Drupal not supporting core code or modules after February 24. Others include:

  • Programming languages eventually moving beyond Drupal 6’s capabilities.

  • 3rd party platforms and web development frameworks not working with Drupal 6.

  • The number of developers with experience or even an interest in working with Drupal 6 declining.

Any one of the above reasons could disrupt or halt development by increasing its difficulty, risk and cost. There is also a hidden cost to continuing development in Drupal 6. The longer development continues, the more will need to be redeveloped when the switch occurs.

If the success of your website depends on active development or will in the future, it’s probably a good idea to start the switch now. There’s little reason to wait.

Your aversion to security threats

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After February 24, Drupal will stop releasing security patches and advisories for Drupal 6. Think of it this way. For every v6 security patch and advisory Drupal does not release, your website is exposed to one more security threat you know nothing about. That sounds a bit scary. Or does it?

As a website owner, this thought might not bother you at all. Especially if your website does not contain valuable information, such as customer data, for example. On the other hand, this thought might be terrifying when you consider the potential cost of a security breach.

Depending where you stand on this spectrum, you may decide to start the switch immediately or in the near future.

The relationship between your business and your website

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We’re not only talking about websites. We’re talking about businesses and websites. In considering how soon to move off of Drupal 6, it is important to consider the nature of your business as well.

  • Is your website your primary source of revenue?

  • How sensitive is your business to issues, even minor ones, that may start occurring on your website?

  • How do you feel about your business prospects if your website went down for a day, a week, or even a month?

If you, as a business owner with a Drupal 6 website, have not thought through the above or similar questions, now might be the time to start.

In our next article, we’ll discuss how to decide whether to port a Drupal 6 website to Drupal 7 or 8.